Friday, October 31, 2008

Random Thoughts on a Friday

1. Not a Halloween costume.

This is HH at the wedding in his very first tux. Doesn't he look handsome? Seriously, two dimensions do not do him justice. He looked fantastic.

2. Not a Halloween movie.

Bill Maher's documentary, "Religulous," is excellent. I highly recommend even if, like me, you're not a big fan of Bill Maher. He did his homework which is more than a lot of people can say.

3. Not a Halloween trick.

I just found out a friend of mine was the visual effects editor for the movie, "Twilight." She just finished and is exhausted. Apparently, they pushed the release date up by a few weeks which meant she had to work harder than ever. Hey, I have a Twilight connection!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

SCBWI Conference Fun!

On Saturday, I was invited to be part of a YA author panel at the SCBWI conference held at Mills College in Oakland, which is northern California near San Francisco. What a gorgeous campus! And for those of you who are counting, it's a women's college that was started by an alumna of Mount Holyoke College in western Massachusetts which is where I got my undergrad degree.

Go MHC!!

This was my first writers' conference EVER, which was a huge surprise to my fellow speakers, all of whom were far more seasoned. Thank you to them all for making this a really great experience for me. And a great big special thanks goes to Margaret Speaker Yuan and Colette Weil who invited me and who put together the whole thing. They did an amazing job. Every detail was so well-conceived and the conference itself was so well-organized. Kudos!

First up, to begin our day at Lisser Hall, keynote speaker Elizabeth Partridge, who has written several nonficton biographies of John Lennon and Woody Guthrie, among others, talked about the business of being a writer, not just the important things like getting reviews and using the internet but also the philsophy of being a writer. She talked about her "mean Barbara" who sits on her shoulder and whispers negative thoughts like, "You can't do this, who do you think you are." We all have a mean Barbara - whether it's a real person or just the voice of our subconcious mind - and we have to push her away.

Next at the podium was editor Gretchen Hirsch of HarperCollins who discussed her favorite first pages, from books she's loved as a reader and as an editor. Among them, Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women" and E Lockhart's "The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks." Most interestingly, though, she took us through several drafts of the first page of a novel called "The Body Finder" to show us how she and the writer worked through changes to make it smoother and more concise, selecting just the right words to convey meaning.

Following Gretchen was agent Erin Murphy of Erin Murphy Literary who talked about query letters. She had us in hysterics as she read some of the awful mistakes people make when sending letters to agents, including one hilarious letter from a man who must have been a car salesman in his daily life because it was filled with "offers" to Erin to be part of the millions his books will surely make. Erin basically told us, look, it's one thing to be confident in your work but another to treat it like a money-making venture. When you query an agent, you want to be personable, to give him or her a reason to want to read and like your work, and to want to pursue you as a client. She also read letters that she liked and made her want to read more of the writer's work.

Then Erin and Gretchen took questions from the audience through Margaret Speaker Yuan at the podium.And very quickly, it was Carrie Watson's (QUAD) and my turn, with Betsy Partridge as moderator. We talked about...I have no idea! I think we talked about writing and what it was like to write about difficult issues for teens. It's hard to remember because I was so focused on all of those people looking up at me. If anyone reading this attended, maybe they can remind me of what we said. I'm pretty sure Carrie got a bunch of laughs because she's very funny. Me, I'm more like a deer in the headlights, regardless of the kindness of some attendees who said I did a good job.

And then it was on to lunch where HH and Carrie and I hung out with some attendees and Colette. We stayed for a short while to hear editor Julie Romeis of Chronicle Books talk about Lisa Kline's book "Ophelia" but then we had to leave to get back to LA. HH was a groomsman in his friend's wedding the next day and we didn't want him to be super tired - too exhausted to put on his tux.

What a great weekend! I so wish I lived closer to Oakland because there were some amazing people I met up there and I adored Mills College - like a west coast version of my alma mater! And a super special thanks to Luan from Laurel Books in Oakland who provided all of our books in a sort of mini-store outside the theater.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Of Heroes and Housewives

Who's watching these shows this season? Are you liking them?

I have to say, I was quite disappointed in the way both series played out last year. In Heroes, sticking Hiro in the past for the whole season? And Maya and her lame black-eye-death power? Plus I was so confused about Sylar who is such a great bad-guy!

As for Housewives, the fast-forwarding (like in my very favorite show, Lost) was a great idea and a terrific means of freshening up some stale storylines. Mike 'n Susan had gotten so old and I was just about tired of Edie constantly stealing everyone's man. New stories, writers, please!

So I'm happy to say I'm cautiously optimistic about this season for both shows. I love seeing Robert Forster as the ultimate villain - and the father of Sylar to boot! And last night saw the return of Kristen Bell as Elle, the electricity princess. Love her!

And over on Housewives, I have to say, Sunday's episode was truly brilliant writing. I loved the judicious use of flashbacks to flesh out some of the women's fears and to delicately shed light on what happened during the 5-year jump. Learning more about Bree and Catherine's relationship was very important (although I could pretty much guess Carlos and Gaby's situation). And I am so very intrigued about Dave's motives - who is the man who ruined his life that he's come to Wisteria Lane to take care of? I thought for sure it was Bree because someone told me his last name is the same as the deceased pharmacist she was engaged to and whom she let die. If it's not her, then who is it?

Hmmm, very juicy.

Monday, October 27, 2008


So you've got your bra on and you mean business. You're ready to write, right?

Not so fast there, cowgirl. You ain't nowhere near ready til you get some food in your stomach. How can you possibly create when you're running on empty?

Here's how I do it:


I hate just one kind of cereal. And do not give me sugar in the morning. I'm like a gremlin that way.
All day.

Gotta have Joe's joe. Many cups, sans cream or sugar.


Master the carbs = master your mind. No, seriously, I just love the taste and it's really cheap and cheap is a key word in Writer Land.

Afternoon snacks.

Surprisingly, carrots are very very tasty with black coffee. If I'm super hungry, I'll snack on the breakfast cereal. Lots of good stuff in those boxes: complex carbs 'n stuff.

Vitamin supplement.

We pescaterian girls need all the help we can get. And extra calcium since I do soy instead of cow's milk.

Okay, now I can write.

Wait, what time is it? Dinnertime? Well, maybe I'll write tomorrow.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Random Thoughts on a Thursday

4 Treats & 2 Promised Treats a Week Before Halloween

1. SCBWI Northern California Conference, YA Panel, 12PM, Saturday Oct 25th. I'll be panelling alongside Elizabeth Partridge and CG Watson with Margaret Speaker Yuan moderating. Whoo-hoo! Oakland's in da house! (Is that how the hip kids say it?)

2. 11th wedding anniversary, Saturday, Oct 25th. HH and I were married in a tiny Italian restaurant called Brunetta's in the East Village of New York City. It's where we had our first date and where he proposed; he was planning to do it at the Empire State Building but there were a million people in line to go up to the top - this was August, after all. Sadly, Brunetta's is gone but it was fantastic while it lasted. (Is that a bad sign?)

3. Wedding of our friends Shan and Beth, Sunday, Oct 26th. HH is one of Shan's groomsmen which means he has to wear a tux! He's never worn one - he wore a nice suit for our wedding, which doesn't fit him anymore. (Is that a bad sign too?)

4. I've finished a new draft of a new manuscript but I absolutely positively know it needs to be revised and polished. Whew...thank god I like these characters or this would be a miserable experience. In the meantime, I've got a short story up on my website - which I think I mentioned last week - and honestly, why would I say "I think" when all I have to do is look back at my blog? So yes, I did mention it. It's called "I Brake for Whales" and it's kind of creepy. Check it out.

And next week's promised treats are 2 posts about the writer's life:
--the importance of shaving one's legs and underarms and the effects thereof on one's creative talents

Monday, October 20, 2008

Work-At-Home For Big Bucks!

When people want to know what the writer's life is like, I tell them it requires a tremendous amount of self-discipline, sticking to a self-imposed schedule with deadlines and goals, and wads and wads of optimism.

It also requires a bra.

I follow very few rules but the number one rule is put on a bra. If I'm not wearing a structural undergarment, I don't feel like I'm working. I feel like I'm lounging around the house. Free 'n easy, nice 'n breezy, ya know? But with a bra, I'm a working woman.

Which brings me to my second rule: no sweat pants. Jeans, absolutely, and shorts when necessary but no sweats, no how. That just screams "My butt is truly lazy and I don't care!" And I'd rather keep that to myself. You don't need to know exactly how lazy my butt is.

Now, the thing is that we don't get a lot of visitors and when I say "we" I don't mean that in a royal sense because this is a truly democratic household, not a monarchy, except when it isn't. I mean, HH and I share this apartment as a workspace. I'm in the kitchen area and he's in the between-living-room-and-kitchen area. It's a very small apartment. But we do occasionally get a visitor, like our friends upstairs or the mailman. And when that person enters our workspace, I don't want them to see us lazing around - or looking like we're lazing around. I usually try to scowl and show them how much they're interrupting my work, without letting them see I'm actually updating my Facebook page.

Here is a picture of me hard at work (or is that just my Goodreads account I'm looking at?). Note the serious expression which is a sure sign I'm wearing a bra.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Random Thoughts on a Friday

1 Brand New Short Story Posted on my Website

Yep. That's it for my random thoughts. Ninja Webmaster posted a short story I wrote as a Halloween treat. I like writing shorts - but my version of a short story is probably another person's novella. You can't read this in one sitting, or maybe you can if you have a longer attention span than I have.

Check it out...Happy Halloween!

And 1 Giant Thank You (postscript added)

I had a fantastic time chatting with everyone last night, thanks to Chelsea, the Page Flipper, who hosted the chat. Great questions and a lot of lovely and lively chatter. Thanks to Chelsea, Chelsie, Nicole B., Harmony, Steph, Lauren, Mika, Breaking News, Khy, Carol and Hurdler4eva for coming and hanging out for a while. And if I missed anyone among the guests, I apologize - there were a lot of people when I joined!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

In Your Room in stores today!

On Tuesday, I had a yummy decaf Americano at Bottega, a small Italian cafe/restaurant in Larchmont Village in LA with my friend and fellow author, Jordanna Fraiberg, whose debut novel, In Your Room, is in stores today!

For those of you unfamiliar with the lovely Jordanna, here are 5 facts about her:

1. She's originally from Canada.
2. She's a former professional squash player (yes, I actually know a professional athlete!).
3. She worked for many years in the movie business - and we actually worked in the same building for at least a year without even knowing it!
4. She recently married and has some of the most gorgeous wedding photos of anyone I've ever seen on her Facebook page.
5. She has all her own teeth (I'm just guessing on this one but she does have a beautiful smile).

And a 6th bonus fact...Jordanna is the number one person I would high-five if I were a high-fiving kind of person.

I love hanging out with her; she's sweet and so smart and funny and she makes me want to use big words. It's also a huge amount of fun to talk to a fellow writer because they know exactly what you're going through on a daily basis: the ups and downs of Amazon numbers, the good and bad of Goodreads reviews, the word count (oh, the word count!). They also know you have to make time to actually get out and talk to people and to give yourself an opportunity to wear clothes that are not jeans and a Home Depot t-shirt.

Seriously, I tried on 4 different outfits before settling on the one I actually wore to meet with Jordanna. Why? Because a) I had no idea what looks good on me anymore b) I couldn't possibly wear all my old, good clothes at once and c) when you're not used to choosing from among a selection of clean clothes, you feel really lost when faced with a closet full of them.

Anyway, back to Jordanna...she's currently on a blog tour, guesting on blogs all over the web and doing interviews, and she's gotten some terrific reviews for her book. I can't wait to get my hands on a copy! If you can't find one in stores near you, order it on-line here!

And don't forget! Tonight at The Page Flipper, I'm chatting LIVE (that's me, really, not anyone posing as me) with whoever shows up at 4PM Pac/7PM Eastern. So I hope you'll be there!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Who Killed Laura Palmer?

That's the clue for my latest celebrity sighting...check it out on my website.

And a reminder: the Cybil Awards noms end tomorrow, Wednesday 10/15 so you have just 1 more day to nominate your favorite books!

And mark your calendars for one more fun thing: on Thursday, October 16, I will be chatting LIVE at The Page Flipper! I think it's 4PM Pacific/7PM Eastern but visit Chelsea's blog for more info or her author chat page.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Reverse Psychology

Do you think reverse psychology works on inanimate objects?

From the Urban Dictionary:

"a technique of convincing a person that they will not succeed in hopes that it will spur them to succeed; a technique employing pessimism in order to effect a positive outcome"

I use this technique most successfully with HH when I need him to cook or clean something for me. I often suggest that he's not manly enough to broil the salmon or not strong enough to scrub the toilet and this usually works on his ego and I get the salmon or a clean bathroom in a matter of minutes.

But what about the publishing industry? Do you think if I were to use reverse psychology on it, I might become successful? As in,

"Oh no, I don't want to be on a bestseller list. That would be horrible."


"Please, do not buy my new manuscript because I would hate that."


"Seriously, my world would crumble into bits and pieces if you made me an offer. Whatever you do, do not buy my new book. Just send my agent a form rejection and move on."

Cuz right now, I'm in the please buy my new book mode and it doesn't seem to be working.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Random Thoughts on a Friday

4 Books on my To-Read Pile

1. HOT WIDOW by Phyllis Gebauer - this is a memoir by a woman I met when I was doing a promotional tv show for the Duarte Festival of Authors. Phyllis is hilarious! She also teaches writing at UCLA. Our tables were next to each other for the festival and we had a ball hanging out together. Can't wait to read it!

2. CATCH A MATE by Gena Showalter - I picked this up at Book Expo in May when Gena was signing at Harlequin. My friend Chandra said her books are awesome - romance with lots of humor which is the way I like it.

3. ECLIPSE by Stephenie Meyer - I'm only halfway through NEW MOON so obviously this one will have to wait until I'm finished. And about half a dozen people have volunteered to loan me BREAKING DAWN so I guess I got that one covered.

4. ATONEMENT by Ian McEwan - I cheated and saw the movie first which will spoil the plot for me but not the novel itself. It was completely by accident! I was visiting the family in June and they had netflixed it and wanted to watch so what could I say? Great movie which means the book will be even better.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Cool Friend Updates

First up, my friend Lisa will be on the Tyra Banks Show this Friday Oct 10 at 4PM, locally on Channel 11, Fox. The show is about losing weight and how it affects relationships. Lisa lost 50 pounds after her son was born. Set your Tivo!!

Next, a reminder that Holly's film will be at the Healing Through Creativity art festival in West Virginia on Oct 17. I love her sites, Woman Tribune and Menstrual Poetry. Totally dig the New Feminism!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Duarte Festival of Authors

Amy Koss, Kerry Madden and me at the table

On Saturday, I attended the Duarte Festival in Duarte, CA. Sadly, it rained which meant we couldn't be out on the lovely grounds of Westminster Gardens. We still had a great time but it wasn't the same. Also, sadly, my friend Liane Bonin couldn't make it due to an illness she picked up while she was in Italy for work.

As bummed out as I was about both of those things, I did get a chance to bring the fantastic authors Kerry Madden and Amy Koss in to take Liane's place on the panel. They even hung out at the table with me for a while which was loads of fun. These girls are hilarious! You know the old adage, never judge a book by its cover, well, the same definitely holds true with authors, particularly YA and MG authors: never judge them by their books!

We met some great people who came to the festival to hear authors Ray Bradbury, DJ MacHale, Stephen Cannell and Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, all of whom were just as fascinating as you'd expect them to be.

Kerry and Amy and I did our own panel discussion, along with children's book author Barbara Jean Hicks and mystery writer Naomi Hirahara. They were wonderful! I loved meeting them. I just wish we had gotten a larger crowd because they all had a lot to say about what they write and how and where they all began - all of which was funny and smart and really interesting, even to me!

Here are some pics of the booth, as well as some of our more famous fellow authors that I'm sure you'll recognize.
I am interviewed for Duarte TV by Gonzalo

The Duarte TV Interview Crew

Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez

The great Ray Bradbury

Amy, Kerry and me looking like real authors

Thanks to everyone who came, everyone who listened, everyone who worked to make the festival a success!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Random Thoughts on a Friday

5 Things I Learned This Week:

1. Even if the calendar says it's October 1st, that doesn't mean you can't have a heat wave in LA that melts the insides of your brain.

2. Rewriting a book from 3rd person to 1st person does not mean you just change "she" to "I." It's actually more like writing the book from scratch. And it's very, very painful.

3. Book fair season is a lot like baseball season - and there are always more playoff games than you could possibly attend. This Saturday, I'm in Duarte, CA for their Festival of Authors. Come listen to me and Liane Bonin chat with other YA panelists at 2:30PM or just stop by the booth and say hello!

4. Sending a fan letter to your favorite writer is just as hard when you're a published author as when you're not. In fact, I think it's harder because you're expected to use, like, proper grammar and decent spelling and crap. That being said, I hope Liza and Jennifer don't think I'm lame.

5. Even celebrities use the restroom. And if you don't believe me, check out my latest sighting.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

It's Cybil Awards Time!!

Here is the info about the Cybil Awards straight from the source:

Nominations for the third annual Children's and Young Adult Bloggers'
Literary Awards (the Cybils) will be open Wednesday, October 1st through
Wednesday, October 15th. The goal of the Cybils team (some 100 bloggers) is
to highlight books that are high in both literary quality and kid appeal.
The Cybils were founded by Anne Boles Levy
( and Kelly Herold

This year, awards will be given in nine categories (Easy Readers, Fantasy &
Science Fiction, Fiction Picture Books, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade Novels,
Non-Fiction Middle Grade/Young Adult Books, Non-Fiction Picture Books,
Poetry, Young Adult Novels). Anyone can nominate books in these categories
(one nomination per person per category). Nominated titles must be published
between January 1st and October 15th of this year, and the books must be in
English (or bilingual, where one of the languages is English). To nominate
titles, visit the Cybils blog ( between October 1st
and 15th. A separate post will be available for each category - simply
nominate by commenting on those individual posts. If you are not sure which
category to choose for a particular book, a questions thread will also be

Between October 16th and January 1st, Cybils panelists (children's and young
adult bloggers) will winnow the nominations down to a 5-7 book short list
for each category. A second set of panelists will then select the winning
titles for the different categories. The winners will be announced on
February 14th, 2009.

The Cybils lists, from long lists to short lists
( to the lists of
winners (,
offer a wonderful resource to anyone looking for high-quality, kid-friendly
books. The Cybils team has worked hard to balance democracy (anyone can
nominate titles) with quality control (two rounds of panel judging by people
who focus on children's books every day). We do this work because we
consider it vital to get great books into the hands of children and young

How Can You Participate?

We think that the Cybils nominations will be of interest to parents,
teachers, librarians, writers, and teens. If you have a blog or an email
list or belong to a newsgroup that serves one of these populations, and you
feel that your readers would be interested, please consider distributing
this announcement (you are welcome to copy it). The Cybils team would very
much appreciate your help in spreading the word. And if you, or the children
that you know, have any titles to suggest, we would love to see your
nominations at the Cybils blog (, starting on
Wednesday. Thanks for your help, and stay tuned for further news!

Now, I'm not gonna come right out and ASK people to nominate my book but if they WANT to, I would be THRILLED!!!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

West Hollywood Book Fair!

What a great day we had on Sunday at the West Hollywood Book Fair! I have attended it every year and this is my second year participating. I was so thrilled and honored to be the moderator of a YA panel on tough issues for teens and how we write about them without being didactic. Joining me were Lisa Yee (MILLICENT MIN, GIRL GENIUS, etc.), Janet Tashjian (TRU CONFESSIONS, etc.), Joyce Lee Wong (SEEING EMILY) and CG Watson (QUAD).

Here we are, a panel in motion.

Lisa with Peepy who was a little shy in front of the huge crowd.

Janet discusses things smartly.

CG has something to say.

Joyce talks about people mistaking her for Jackie Chan.

All of us at the end of the talk - we held up well!

And your moderator with her books

Thanks to everyone who came to hear us talk and who asked questions or who just clapped politely. We had an amazing time! And super happy thanks to all the panelists who agreed to be there. I loved meeting all of you!